It’s all getting very exciting! Only one week until the big day, trees are going up and the cupboards are slowly stocking up with food. Plans are hopefully coming together and Christmas shopping is on its way to being completed, finally! Unfortunately, though, Christmas (and any big celebration, really) tends to be a time of excess…and not just on our poor tums! Excess food, excess gifts, excess rubbish and excess money spent. However, I’ve noticed this year that a lot of people are reining it in a little and thought I’d publish a quick guide with a few tips to lessen your waste impact this festive holiday.
Get a Real Tree
This is probably the one you’ve seen most about this year, that a real tree is much more eco-friendly than a plastic fake one. True – BUT, not if you have the fake one already and it can depend where you got it from. There’s really no point in throwing away any plastic items to replace them with eco-friendly ones…Completely besides the point. Re-use your tree for as long as possible, at the end of its life you can reassess the most eco-friendly way to shop for a new tree then, possibly even checking out websites like Freecycle or Gumtree for people giving away their old ones. Personally, I’d love to try a real Christmas tree (although I’m allergic to some pine trees I think!) but currently I’m still using my childhood tree…Even if it is absolutely gigantic, plastic and a bit sparse. You can source your real tree via Forestry England where you can find a sustainably grown, local tree and your money will go into protecting the forest further. Win win! If you’re after a tree that is certified organic and pesticide-free, check that it’s approved by the Soil Association. Most councils have much better recycling points these days where your tree can be collected from and continue its life as fresh mulch on a path, play park or used for compost…Better than it sounds. Every trees dream, Im sure!
[I was going to put a picture of my tree here…It’s the 19th but we still haven’t put it up, check back soon!]
Rent a Tree
If you do some googling for information on your local area, you’ll probably be surprised by how many places you can rent a tree from! This means you can change your tree each year and won’t have to store it yourself. You can even rent real trees that can be put back in the ground to continue growing for another year after you’ve used them – how amazing is that?! If you have a garden, you could buy a potted tree to use inside over Christmas that you can then just pop out into the garden and bring in next year and hopefully for years to come!
There are so many techniques you can probably vaguely remember from school when you were taught to make a little Christmas gift decoration to take home. We used to bake ornamental dough (salt dough) that you can then shape and paint however you like! These can be as personal as you like or just simple stylish creations. I’ve been collecting pine cones from outside my house; soaking them, drying and then baking until open. I even glitzed up a few with some glitter I had left over from Pride earlier in the year!
Over the past ten years or so since I moved out, I’ve slowly accumulated any decorations my parents wanted to get rid of…Has this led me to have a stylish, Instagram worthy tree? No, not exactly. I have what you’d probably recall as the typical childhood tree, a tacky 90s tree – but, a traditional and heart-warming one. So if anyone’s getting rid of any decorations…I’ll have ’em! and I’ll reuse them within an inch of their life because there’s no need to overhaul your decorations each year, it’s such a waste when they are used so little. Alternatively, loads of Charity Shops are fulling of festive goodies! I’m sure there will be even more in the weeks after Christmas so you could pick up some bargains ready for next year. I also scavenged some left-over tinsel from an event I worked recently that got left behind…One mans trash is another ones treasure!
Eco-Friendly Christmas Cards
Lots of cards are now made using recycled cards – which is great! But it’s important to keep an eye on the packaging, too. This year I bought all my cards from small local businesses, usually these come naked and not in plastic packaging, plus its especially nice to know your money is going to a local small biz instead of a big faceless corporation that gets plenty of money from elsewhere. This is often more expensive so if you are bound by a budget you could always make your own cards with simple potato print stamp designs! There are definitely some eco-friendly cheaper boxes in the superstores as well though.
Re-use Your Christmas Cards
The cards you receive this year can easily be re-used as gift-tags for next Christmas, just cut them up! We used to do this as children with my mum, usually with those zig-zaggy scissors to make it extra fancy.
Shop As Ethically As Possible
I recently published a Kind Christmas Gift Guide full of lovely gift ideas that also happen to be eco-friendly, zero waste, plastic free or vegan. Even just saying no to plastic bags when shopping is a small step you can take here but a big help!
Sometimes it’s reaaaaally hard to stick to your ‘budget’ when Christmas shopping, especially if you spend more on one sibling than the other and then in an attempt to even it up the budget goes up and up! But don’t over-think it. If you keep spotting great things you want to get for someone, note them down and save it for the next time you want to get them a gift. Someone else might have even got them something similar! It’s the thought that counts and a nice, well thought out gift will always be well received – even if you accidentally spend £2.50 more on one person than the other. The likelihood is they won’t even know or care.
Make Christmas Lists
My family make Christmas Shopping super easy by still making lists, like back when you were a kid. We each compile secret Christmas lists, as detailed or vague as we like and in turn we get similar lists from our parents, each other and grandparents. My mum has taken on the role of keeping up with these (shout out to my mum! My entire extended family now come to her knowing she has collated these lists so it’s basically a full time job over the festive season haha), so we will all inform her if we’ve chosen something off the list so it can be knocked off to make duplicate gifts much less likely! It also makes it less likely that we will receive things we don’t want whilst helping our loved ones head in the right direction so they are able to do a lot of their shopping sat at home in the warm – not wondering around the busy city centre, trapped behind slow walkers and trying to find something we might like.
Some might think this ‘spoils’ the magic of Christmas, but I don’t think so at all – we can always stray from the list (they are suggestions, not orders!) if we see something particularly special or come up with a certain idea and, regardless, the magic of Christmas has almost zero to do with what presents you receive and I think we all know that really. I find this also really helps to reduce waste and unwanted gifts, which can only be a good thing .
Firstly, I’m sure most of us keep and re-use gift-bags right?! Especially the bottle ones. We have a bunch in the cupboard that we can head for when we need them! Wrapping-wise, try to avoid and shiny paper (I know, I know…but it’s so fancy and pretty) as it’s not recyclable and will unfortunately just have to go in the normal bin and end up as landfill. Use brown paper instead! I love brown paper, it looks timeless and you can use it for any occasion but it’s also totally recyclable and my roll has lasted me forever. This year, though, I’ve used some paper my sister was getting rid of from last year as it’s better than it going straight in the bin unused! If you’re looking for a somewhat more impressive wrapping technique though, check out Folds. Absolutely beautiful linen/cotton re-usable wraps that mean you don’t even need to use and tape or scissors…Plus, they are an extra gift for whoever is lucky enough to receive it! Hopefully they’ll gift it back to you on the next occasion, or you could just make known before you give them the present that you’ll need the wrap back…No shame here!
Reduce Your Food Waste
Food is the simplest way for humans to improve their environmental impact, specifically by lessening the amount of meat you eat…but don’t worry, I’m not going to preach to you about going Vegan before Christmas day. That’s what Veganuary is for! However, just use common sense and don’t cook too much food! Or if you do, don’t plate up too much at the main event just for is to be scraped into the bin because everyones been secretly scoffing chocolate all morning. Save it so that you can eat it later, or maybe you know someone that would appreciate a portion kept aside for them? These Yuggen food bags are perfect for keeping leftovers in the fridge or freezer, you can even put them in the microwave or over to reheat. Maybe you could use the leftovers for a pie, or any veggies can just be chucked into a tasty curry! Mostly though, it’s just about shopping consciously. Do you really need to cook and entire turkey when there’s only two of you? Most of the chore that is cooking Christmas dinner is the time it takes for large joints of meat to cook but with so many people cutting meat out of their diet now, it’s important to re-evaluate what you might need. Maybe just buy a crown or a couple turkey breasts? My Dad and sister are just having steaks this year so our cooking time as just gone done by HOURS! When shopping, try and buy items with as little plastic as possible. Loose potatoes, carrots etc…You can pick the ones that best suit your needs this way and pop them straight in your basket, no need to bag them up.
Re-Gift Unwanted Products
Remember your teenage years when you keep getting things you don’t like any more? or another bathroom/beauty gift set when you still haven’t quite used up the last one? Maybe even just something completely random that you cannot for the life of you figure out why someone chose that for you, eventually ending up spending it’s life in the cupboard tucked away but, unfortunately, oftentimes, eventually thrown away. Most people in their close circles will openly say if something wasn’t to their taste or size, and many people will have gift-receipts to enable a return or exchange of this item but if not…Please don’t just bin it later when no ones looking! Re-gift it or donate it to a local charity shop…Even sell it on eBay to a new home if you want, anything to stop it sitting in the bin. I often see this with gift-sets, particularly bath or beauty related where there’s something in there someone does like or won’t use…This is the perfect opportunity to put it aside and re-gift. Add it to a future gift-set, or even your own hamper gift if you’re feeling creative.
I’d love to hear your tips and stories about how you’re hoping to reduce your impact this year, please feel free to comment below! Merry Christmas x